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Lackluster lineup leads to another loss

Apr 23, 2013, 4:06 AM EDT

Associated Press
Ian Desmond reacts after striking out with two on to end the eighth inning.

Want a quick synopsis of the state of the Nationals’ lineup 19 games into the season? Adam LaRoche has the condensed version.

“We’re not getting the big hits,” the veteran first baseman said. “A lot of quick innings. Not a ton of baserunners. And five or six guys that aren’t swinging the bat real good. When it rains, it pours.”

The rain may not be at cats-and-dogs stages right now, but it’s coming down at a steady rate, resulting in more than a few frustrating losses like Monday’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Cardinals.

Despite getting the closest thing Dan Haren has offered up to a quality start this season and some sparkling work out of their bullpen, the Nationals couldn’t exorcise their St. Louis demons from last October because they couldn’t produce a clutch hit late despite several opportunities.

Thus, a Nationals club that three weeks ago was everyone’s prohibitive favorite to reach the World Series fell to 10-9. Yes, they’re still over .500, but there’s something unsettling about the way they’ve played to date, especially at the plate.
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  1. peric - Apr 23, 2013 at 4:13 AM

    Sure looks like they're struggling like is 199 errr 2011 again. LaRoche is hitting like he did when he was the one with the shoulder. Desmond and Espinosa still finding their way lost at times … Zim injured … all that they had was Morse to spark the hitting. Werth was batting under the Mendoza. It was almost a complete disaster until they turned things around with improved fielding/defense and some decent pitching but they still didn't sore much.

  2. EmDash - Apr 23, 2013 at 5:13 AM

    I mean, you don't like to see a loss, but I feel like this one was at least progress. Excellent defense, good stuff from the bullpen (Stammen especially), Haren was at acceptable 5th starter levels. The plate approach just remained overanxious, but that seems like a relatively fixable thing. Not where we want to be, but better./mayyybe a bit overly optimistic

  3. Teresa - Apr 23, 2013 at 5:16 AM

    Never should have traded Morse. His big bat protected others in the lineup. Now, the Nats have no one in that role. No one. Also, team chemistry was hurt when he left, I don't care what anyone says. This team is a shadow of last year's team. They play with no Nattitude, look lackluster, make error after error, and with 1 or 2 exceptions, can't seem to hit. It is still early, but if this trend continues thru May, we are in for a long, frustrating season.

  4. EmDash - Apr 23, 2013 at 5:29 AM

    Morse isn't hitting that well out in Seattle, either, because he got injured. He wouldn't be a savior here.

  5. Clip&Store - Apr 23, 2013 at 6:44 AM

    Da*nit enough about Morse. He is not the reason this team is losing. Its because, until tonight they played like complete crap in the losses, period. Morse sure as heck would not be making the defense look any better out there…he would only be making it look worse.

  6. JayB - Apr 23, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    While still early to me what we are seeing is the results of a poor spring training approach and a collective denial by Davey on down to face the choke job in game 5.In Spring Training the starters were given jobs and told they did not need to compete or even try to improve on anything….just tinker on whatever they wanted and rest. It is clear to me that from Strass to R Zimm (except Harper) they all were not ready to flip a switch and mentally complete. That is on Davey.Also on Davey is the collective failure to face Game 5 choke job. To a man they have said it is in the past….something they were over the next day and something that has not barring on this season……..right…what I believe is true is each of them still think about it everyday and they are tense and getting tenser each day trying to prove to themselves they are over it……I believe what they should have done is faced it and admitted it is driving them in the Spring training and Davey should have played used the extra 10 days to make sure each starter and pitcher was going all out to win 10 in a row in S Training. What we are seeing in my view is what should have been worked out in March.Yes it is not panic time and yes it is very early. Still a loss is a loss and if they miss the playoffs by a game we can point to April and really Spring Training approach for that potential epic fail and underachievement.

  7. Rabbit34 - Apr 23, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    Folks, there is one thing this season is going to prove…..game5 of the series was no fluke. That was the real Nationals team. The proof is where we are this year. At least now I am sitting back and enjoying the games more because I am expecting much less. I love watching Harper, and Rendon is a pleasure and breath of fresh air. After that the lineup is dull (as I have always said…we need bats!) but the beer is good, and cold. Ah, this Sierra Nevada is for you!

  8. Doc - Apr 23, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    Ok, it's time to get rolling.I still think that NatsLady's projected April of 16 & 11 is in reach—but it's gonna be hard.Hey, you gotta believe!!!!!!!!

  9. rmoore446 - Apr 23, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    I don't think Game 5 of last year has anything to do with the April troubles. And I don't think wallowing in that misery during Spring Training would have improved anything.

  10. AceHammer - Apr 23, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    To the Morse deniers out there, I don't see how our defense could be any worse with him in there as we are already the worst in the NL. Al least we would have another bat for pitchers to fear other than Harper and Desi. We should have let ALR go and kept Morse. Then 1st would be open for Zim next year.

  11. Doc - Apr 23, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Those were my thoughts too, AceHammer. I kinda believe that, through out the winter.I guess we'll see how that plays out??

  12. ehay2k - Apr 23, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    JayB, your bias is betrayed by your arguments contrary to the facts. A lot of people said that Soriano's signing was a direct reaction to game five. You certainly can't say the Nats didn't try to address their failing in bringing him in.As for your comment about the Nats being told not to improve on anything in ST, that is complete bunk. Just for one example, Espi worked hard to correct his LH swing, and it showed. For a second example, Jordan Z was working on his change-up all ST, so he could finally use it during the season. How is adding a new pitch just tinkering?

  13. DJB - Apr 23, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    Game 5 has everything to do with their troubles. Storen blew his first save opportunity. The errors are reminiscent of the whole series, especially Desmond's during Kozma's last at bat. They haven't responded to pressure well, ever since September of last season. The pitchers haven't adjusted. The Espi and Zimm issues hasn't been addressed. Davey is primarily at fault. Look at how the Orioles have started just like they played last year. Rizzo is also at fault for shutting down Strasburg, because the psychological toll added to the pressure and it may be the last time we see playoff baseball in years. If we don't get back this year, I think he should be fired.

  14. Gonat - Apr 23, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Clip&Store said… Da*nit enough about Morse. He is not the reason this team is losing.______________________________The only good news is the bad news about Morse. He is in a deep slump and if you saw his double over the weekend it was a gift by the scorer. The outfielder went back to the wall and the ball clanked off his glove and it was scored a double.He is injury prone with that history of taking balls off of his hands/wrist.Look, I was all over Morse at 1st base when LaRoche opted out but there's no reason to cry over spilt milk. He's gone. Not coming back. I loved the guy as a player and thought he was more than adequate at 1st. No way did I want him in LF.

  15. Gonat - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130423&content_id=45542628&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlbDo you remember what happened to Adam Dunn after his appendectomy in 2011?It will be interesting how quick Heyward makes it back from this.

  16. Gonat - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    MLB Network measured that John Jay covered 81 feet to catch that bloop by Chad Tracy.Generally it's easier coming in for a ball than going back but after watching the video on the Span play in CF he went a shorter distance but the difference was he was sprinting and slowed down for a split second at the warning track and then sped up. It was that brief hesitation you see on the video that caused him to be out of position.http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2013_04_22_slnmlb_wasmlb_1&mode=box#gid=2013_04_22_slnmlb_wasmlb_1&mode=video

  17. m - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    What we saw last night is what we can expect from the team this year – a competitive or hard fought loss. I agree with an earlier poster who essentially said the team did not adequately prepare itself during ST. It was very much overrated coming out of ST. Players and management actually believed the press. The actual truth is now coming out. The team has won three series and lost three and is on its way to losing the next three. I really believe they miss Morse's bat. I can recall a few times last year where Morse's bat won late inning games. Aside from Harper we have no one capable of doing that. On the topic of Strasburg the coaches and management are really screwing with this guy's head. It reminds me of the mess the Yankees made of Joba Chamberlain (e.g. Joba Rules). Strasburg is not the pitcher that came up and blew Pittsburgh away. Rizzo et al should just leave him alone. Look at the mess the Nats made of DetWiler. It was only when he went back to how he pitched originally that he had any semblance of success. The Nats wasted a year of DetWiler's career messing with his mechanics. They are doing the same thing with Strasburg.Someone please help Espinosa.Some one should clue in Carpenter and FP. The team is 10-9 not 19-0.

  18. bowdenball - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    And let's also remember that Morse didn't do much production-wise in 2012 and the Nats won 98 games. Only 17 HR on the season. Danny Espinosa, everyone's favorite scapegoat/punching bag, had more.

  19. NatsLady - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Repeat after me: NO PITCHERS ARE INJURED. Yeah, 16-11 can be done, but it's gonna take some work. Did I mention the whining and moaning that I projected during the eleven losses?Also, April this year is a lot colder than last year. I mean, weather-wise. If I recall, records were broken. Nats are a warm-weather team, like it or not.

  20. NatsLady - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    Davey managed spring training this year exactly the way he managed it last year–with the goal of players coming out of ST not injured and not exhausted, and in pretty close to peak shape, but on the upside towards getting in shape, not the downside. You can like that strategy or not like it, but that's what he does.

  21. bowdenball - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    Sorry, got that backwards. Morse had 18, Espinosa 17. Point is the same though. Morse wasn't the key to the Nats offense in 2012, and he's not the reason they're "struggling" in 2013, if you think they're struggling. They are 6th in the NL in OPS, which should be plenty for a team that's supposed to be among the league's best at run prevention.

  22. Joe Seamhead - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Gonat, as i said from the stadium last night, that ball that Denard didn't catch was a very tough play, though it was catchable. I think worrying about a collision with the wall and/or Harper played a part. People always think that the outfielders should catch everything.I'm only a little discouraged about the poor start, only because I anticipated it. I'm more discouraged by many of the threads on this board. We got this. Relax!.

  23. phil dunton - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    I say again, if Harper doesn't provide the offense, then there isn't any offense. With Zimmerman out of the lineup, Harper is unlikely to see any hittable pitches.

  24. Theophilus T. S. - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    JayB is at least right about ST. The players should have been snapped straight when they were barely able to beat the Marlins in the opening series but . . . no, now most of them have egg on their smug faces. While I am not wowed by Rendon, I'm also not impressed by the "Rendon goes down when Zimmerman comes back" line. First, I'm not prepared to assume Z'man will only be out ten games. I think his DL stay has as much or more to do with his throwing — which can't be tolerated in the day-to-day lineup — as his "strained not cramped" hamstring. Within a day or two they're going to announce he went to Viera for a while to "get some swings." Yeah, right. And throw a bucket of balls, too.Second, Espinosa is making Willie Miranda look like Cal Ripken. (And maybe his shoulder has something to do with that, too; I don't know). What I foresee, if Rendon is hitting well when Z'man returns — whenever that is — is either a Harrisburg or Viera assignment, or a stint on the DL followed by Viera and Harrisburg, for Espinosa while Rendon gets an audition at 2B. Like Harper, last year, they didn't bring him up so they could send him down. If Rendon hits (defined as .270-.280, with some power), he could be in the starting lineup for the next 60-80 days.

  25. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    I thought Haren pitched better than the 3 earned runs on his record. Davey didn't pull him quick enough. Take the 5 innings but certainly after he plunked Molina to start the 6th you could see it.

  26. phil dunton - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    Bowdenball, Re Morse–he missed a good portion of the 2012 season and was in a weakened condition for the rest of it. If he's healthy, he's good for 35 dingers. He has a .295 lifetime average while Espinosa struggles to hit .200!

  27. Joe Seamhead - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    And another thing: If Span makes that catch Haren has a very good, quality start. And another: I second the statement of " enough about Morse." He was a non-factor for much of the first half last year. His departure has had little to do with our record.And another: I'm impressed with all of the people that are experts on how to run a MLB spring training camp. You'll see. We got this. Relax!

  28. UnkyD - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    Plunked Holliday, Ghost…..

  29. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Thanks.

  30. LoveDaNats - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    I'm trying to relax. I think it was waaay more fun last year to be pleasantly surprised by all the Nats wins than to be in this position of winning the WS from the get-go. Too much pressure and the boys are showing it.I went to the game at the last minute last night. Thoroughly enjoyed it, if only to boo Pete Kozma in person rather than from my couch. The best moment, IMO, was Druuuu striking him out looking! Hey, you take what pleasure you can from these cold, dreary April games.

  31. NatsLady - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    The other World Series favorite, the Detroit Tigers, are 9-9 and got swept over the weekend by the struggling Angels. Their offense has not clicked into gear yet.We need to score late inning runs (and add on runs). The bullpen has given up exactly 1 run in 12 innings of work (Mattheus HR). Unfortunately, the hitters have scored exactly 1 run (Harper HR) in those same 12 innings. That is not a recipe for success. Werth said you need to get the starter out of the game and get to the middle relief guys in the 6th inning. That's fine, but then you need to score against the "mediocre" pitchers, because OUR middle relief guys are not so shabby.Congrats to Rafael Soriano. (Oh, and yes, Garcia is injured but it's not clear who he would replace if he weren''t so I'm not counting him.)

  32. Richmond Nat - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    Jay B, while you said some things others will pick at, I generally agree. At the time, I did not like Davey's approach this spring. This team is too young to take that laid back "veteran" approach.

  33. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    Rendon needs to relax. He's pressing and is too good of a hitter to be pulling off those balls. Simple fix just like Bryce. The great hitters understand and make adjustments and the poor ones never get it.

  34. Eric - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    "To the Morse deniers out there, I don't see how our defense could be any worse with him in there as we are already the worst in the NL."How does our outfield rank? How's LaRoche doing?

  35. bowdenball - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    phil dunton said…"Bowdenball, Re Morse–he missed a good portion of the 2012 season and was in a weakened condition for the rest of it. If he's healthy, he's good for 35 dingers. He has a .295 lifetime average while Espinosa struggles to hit .200!"That's right Phil. And yet the team was able to win 98 games in 2012 with an injured/weakened Morse. Which is why I said that Morse was not the key to that team, and is not the reason that this team is "struggling," if you think it's struggling.I didn't mean to compare Morse and Espinosa's offensive contributions overall- Espinosa is an above-average 2B and Morse is a god-awful corner OF/1B. If they were remotely close Espinosa would be a perennial all-star and Morse would be a bench player. The point, again, was that Morse didn't contribute much to a 98 win team in 2012 and his absence is not the reason the 2013 team is struggling.Also, Espinosa's lifetime BA is .237. not "struggling to hit .200." And batting average is a terrible measure of hitter value anyway. Espinosa's lifetime OBP is .312, Morse checks in at 344. Again, not that you should compare a 2B with plus defense with a fielding liability at the corners.

  36. NatsLady - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    I just went back and looked at the games last year. Nats played lousy teams in April (except the Dodgers and CIN). They got a little lucky with CIN because Scot Rolen was hitting below the Mendoza line and so they could pitch around Votto (which they did). They got swept by the Dodgers, and had a 5 game losing streak, and I wish you would go back and look at the posts around then. May was not a walk in the park either. The hot start in April was nice, but in May they were 1.5 games back, Miami was on fire, the Mets were good, Stras was having Hot Stuff issues, and everyone was talking about a 5-way race in the NL East.

  37. Rich P. - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    " Within a day or two they're going to announce he went to Viera for a while to "get some swings." Yeah, right. And throw a bucket of balls, too."Zimmerman was in the dugout last night talking with Rendon. Was his flight to Viera delayed by air traffic control sequestration?

  38. EmDash - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    Yeah, I feel like the difference between last year's start and this year's were the pitching and defense being less effective (I don't expect Stras and Gio to continue to be so erratic, though I'm still not sold on Haren, and I think the defense will come around) and poor luck – team BABIP is below the league average right now. That last ball Tracy hit drops down for a bloop hit that the center fielder can't get to the vast majority of the time. Last April had multiple games they won end on walk-off wild pitches, if I recall, and if that's not a product of good luck then I don't know what is.

  39. Rich P. - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  40. Lipty P - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    The nats have to be the MOST clutchless hitting team in the Majors.

  41. peric - Apr 23, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    Sorry, got that backwards. Morse had 18, Espinosa 17.Now, go back and compare the number of at bats. The plate appearances?Both Morse and Espinosa suffered through injury fraught years as did Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth. Let's face it this is a case of Rizzo and Johnson being too fixed and rigid with a lineup of guys who still haven't recovered from INJURIES NOT game 5. Werth's wrist seems to be better BUT IS IT ENOUGH to hit 15 homers and 20 doubles? Will RZimm ever be healthy enough to get at least 500 at bats and hit the way he did in 2009 and 2010? That window of opportunity is closing as he approaches age 30. Is Espinosa's separated rotator cuff really okay? And then there's 33 year old LaRoche post-shoulder surgery and now with the back? Before last season Rizzo wasn't afraid to go with the youth. Its time to see Tyler Moore just like it was time to see Anthony Rendon. The heart of the lineup has been devastated by injuries. Werth is no longer a #5 hitter. One is left to wonder if RZimm will be kept out long enough to become healthy enough to be one!!! LaRoche is probably on the decline and at the least regressing to his mean. There;s ONLY Harper.THIS IS NOT THE HEART of a lineup of a playoff/world series team! The pitchers may come around but I fear the hitting won't.

  42. Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa - Apr 23, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    So where did "Swift Eagle" go again, and is there a seat open?

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